Brain, Behaviour and Extensionalism

David Longley David at
Fri Apr 9 17:42:23 EST 2004

In article <an5e709t5fq4sut9q84mvbq2if5f6mpo2f at>, JXStern 
<JXSternChangeX2R at> writes
>On Fri, 9 Apr 2004 21:20:57 +0100, David Longley
><David at> wrote:
>>>Yes, but this is exactly why the general works of Quine fell out of
>>>favor, baby and bathwater together.
>>It may well have fallen out of favour with some misguided academics who
>>have to earn their living peddling mentalistic semantics. That, perhaps,
>>was something of a foregone conclusion if you think about it. Quine
>>basically blew the whistle on much of philosophy pointing out that it
>>was intensional nonsense. This gave vast numbers of professional
>>philosophers, linguists and other "cognitivists" nothing to do other
>>than play unwelcome handmaidens to empirical scientists.
>Your order is partially off, as most of Quine's writing is pre-1960,
>and most of cognitivism is post-1960.  For that matter, per PMS
>Hacker, Quine himself was already an apostate verificationist or
>analyticist, letting in an element of ontological commitment, compared
>to Wittgenstein and/or the Vienna Circle.

You'll have to write that again if you want me to comment on it. First 
of all, what I cited was written in 1975. Secondly, whilst "Word and 
Object" was written in 1960 (and built on his argument with Carnap from 
the late '30s on), "The Roots of Reference" was written in the early 
70s, as was most of the rest that I've cited or referenced in the past. 
But then do you really care?

Cognitive Science is an aberration. At best it's a very poor theoretical 
behaviourism. Have a close look at Quine's argument with Chomsky which 
started in "Words and Objections" in the late 1960s..
>>Where Quine's work proves its mettle is in applied work where mentalism
>>invariably proves useless. Believe it or not, it is empirical work that
>>really counts.
>Quite.  Perhaps you want to reread my lead line above, I find much of
>Quine wonderful today, especially contra the neo-Fregeans who run
>rampant in academia today.  But computationalism is another flavor of
>empiricism, and where Quine contradicts that, he loses.

I have re-read what you said. Prima facie it doesn't make sense and 
taken literally it's just false. Quine is renowned for his critique of 
two dogmas of empiricism, but in doing so he just produced an 
enlightened empiricism! He's a more austere positivist than any of his 
>BTW, I'd say that 80% of Quine is in accord with computationalism.

A pretty meaningless things for you to say, but perhaps you should read 
what Putnam had to say in "Representation and Reality".

>>>I have a theory that my computer contains a program, and Quine's
>>>behavioristic talk about it just turns out to be flat wrong.
>>If you just want mental stimulation then perhaps you're better off
>[blather snipped]
>I suppose you still don't care to try to address this theory I have
>about my computer, but it trumps anything you care to say until you
>adjust your claims appropriately.

You haven't provided a theory.

>  I don't suggest this is easy, btw,
>I think that nobody has done it comprehensively since Turing put it on
>the table to do, nearly seventy years ago.  Again per Hacker,
>Chomsky's nativist mechanicalism (or whatever it is) was the excuse
>various modernists used to discard the skepticism of behaviorism,
>though they and Chomsky then hared off in random directions (this last
>part is my opinion, not Hacker's).  Leaves us rather a lot still to
>do.  If only the AI guys had studied some philosophy, even Quine's
>alone, during the 1960s, we might be a whole lot farther ahead today.

I agree with the last sentence, but that's about all.

>PMS Hacker, "Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth Century Analytic
>Philosophy", Blackwell 1996.  Good stuff.
Perhaps. But I don't think you'll find much in Hacker (or his 
co-authored books) which should give you cause to question what I have 
been saying.
David Longley

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